With the 2014-15 NHL season getting ready to kick off, Madhouse Enforcer will be previewing the upcoming campaign with a series of articles predicting how the season will shake out.
Today, we will be shifting our attention to the other coast as we preview the Pacific Division.
1. Los Angeles Kings
While a lot of attention has been paid to what the Kings’ crosstown rivals did this summer, the Kings are the defending Stanley Cup champion for a reason. With basically the same roster, a dynamite young core, and a goaltender who thrives in pressure situations, Los Angeles has all the necessary ingredients to make another run for a Cup, and they are going to be a tough out for anybody come playoff time.
2. Anaheim Ducks
The addition of Ryan Kesler to the lineup is going to provide a solid boost up the middle for the Ducks as they try to match up against the center-rich Kings and San Jose Sharks. The big question for this team will have to be answered in goal, with Frederik Andersen and John Gibson vying for the starter’s role following the departure of Jonas Hiller. We think they’ll solve any chemistry issues and the goaltending situation in time, but because we think they’ll start off a bit slowly, we picked them just behind LA.
3. San Jose Sharks
It’s been unreal this summer to listen to experts and fans discussing whether or not Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau should be shipped out of town after losing in the first round of the postseason to the Kings, but that’s exactly the dilemma that the team finds themselves in. Add to that uncertainty about the blue line with the departure of Dan Boyle and questions about Antti Niemi, and you have a recipe for an interesting season for the Sharks.
4. Arizona Coyotes
The Coyotes are an interesting team this season, and not just because of their name change and ongoing questions about ownership. The team lost Radim Vrbata and Mike Ribiero in the offseason, and they brought in Sam Gagner to help offset some of that scoring loss. Can the team get back to their gritty defensive roots and help Mike Smith in net? That’s the million dollar question, and will ultimately determine whether or not they make the postseason.
5. Vancouver Canucks
Goaltender Ryan Miller was an interesting addition for the Canucks, who will begin a huge rebuild after kicking John Tortorella and Mike Gillis to the curb and sending Ryan Kesler to the Ducks. Vrbata and Luca Sbisa will have plenty of pressure on them to contribute immediately, but with a new coaching staff in place and questions to answer, the Canucks will likely finish outside of the playoff picture for the second straight year.
6. Edmonton Oilers
One would think that an offense with Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins would have plenty of firepower, but after finishing in the bottom 10 in the league in scoring and allowing more goals than any other team, the Oilers are left with a ton of questions to answer. Unless Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov live up to their potential in a big way (and they certainly haven’t yet), this team isn’t going anywhere but down.
7. Calgary Flames
The Flames are a team that will be entering the second year of a massive restructuring under GM Brad Treliving. Adding Jonas Hiller to the goaltending mix should be a nice upgrade in that department, and Mason Raymond could be one of the more unheralded signings of the offseason. With plenty of young players to build around, the Flames likely won’t contend this year, but they should be able to start to see some real progress in the months ahead.